Air travel can be boring, uncomfortable and infuriating

by Drew Edwards

I travel for work, and though I would never complain about this — it’s not a vacation, per se, but it’s close and it’s free — air transportation isn’t always a barrel of monkeys.

Actually, it’s a lot like a barrel of monkeys: primates crammed together in a tin can with precious little space, air or sanity to spare.

I recently journeyed to Vancouver, and with five hours to kill in the barrel with nary a banana in sight, I penned this diary of the flight.

Night before: Spent three hours agonizing over what to bring, packing and unpacking my carry-on case. I refuse to check baggage because the time it takes to get it back is perfectly inverse to the patience you have remaining after your flight. How many pairs of underwear do I need? I always think I’m taking too many and end up with one pair too few.

A few hours before: Put on compression socks. These are supposed to improve blood flow and prevent blood clots but really, it’s just a way to get you to spent $55 on supertight, really uncomfortable socks. My dad swears by these things, though his credibility suffers because he’s not averse to wearing them with sandals and shorts.

An hour before the flight: I have been randomly sentenced, for the 328th straight time, to the slowest security line. There’s a guy holding up the whole thing by talking on a cellphone, finger in the air, refusing to move through the X-ray scanner. Buddy, unless it’s the pilot asking for instructions to the gate, hang up. Now.

Fifteen minutes before the flight: I have said my pre-boarding prayers, not for a safe journey, but for an empty seat beside me and a complete lack of children under two on the aircraft.

Five minutes before the flight: Smited again. Not only do I have a seat neighbour but it’s like a daycare in here. Who flies cross-country with a newborn? People who like to share their misery, that’s who. On the plus side, the woman beside me seems nice, not uncontrollably sweaty, not unreasonably stinky or relentlessly chatty. And I’m pretty sure I can control the shared arm rest, too, with my sharpened elbows.

Three minutes before the flight: All electronic devices must now be switched off because this multi-million-dollar airplane can apparently be flummoxed by a $200 laptop. Another weird air travel rule: the ear buds are OK, but over-the-ear headphones are not. I will now listen to children crying while not being able to check my email. Barrel of monkeys all right.

Twenty-five minutes into the flight: I’m now drinking a $7 glass-and-a-bit of relatively terrible red wine and trying to engage the “entertainment” system. If I’m on WestJet, that means trying to watch satellite TV with maddeningly sketchy reception. If I’m travelling Air Canada, it means somewhat out-of-date and heavily edited movies or TV shows in nonsensical order. Still, headphones keep newborn wailing out. Also, more wine.

Two hours into the flight: I’ve inconvenienced two people and done the insanely ungainly shimmy-shake from my window seat into the aisle. The lineup for the bathroom is long and slow-moving, which means it’s possible someone is using the facilities to, um, unburden themselves. If you drop a deuce in an airplane bathroom, you should have to follow it down into the blue-hued abyss.

Four hours into the flight: I’m. So. Bored.

Arrival in Vancouver: We’re now sitting at the gate until some heavily unionized worker decides to free us from our aluminum prison — and not a moment before he’s good and ready. Meanwhile, everybody stands up and crowds the aisle despite the fact there’s absolutely nowhere to go.

Fifteen minutes after arrival: Freedom. I’ve escaped the airplane only to face a crowded airport, impatient travellers, kamikaze strollers and a fight to the death for cabs.

It’s like a barrel of monkeys. Only in a different city.

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